In a surprising twist, Allyson is writing her first ever post for the blog about sewing our outdoor cushions. So if you’re wondering why it is so much better, that should explain it….
If you know how to use a sewing machine, you can probably make box cushions and pillows. Pillow covers are one of the easiest projects for beginners to make because all of the seams are straight, and you can learn how to turn corners and install zippers. My mom taught me how to sew when I was growing up. I even had a business selling extra long beach towels with custom covers that held the towel onto the chair. Sewing is an invaluable skill to add to your DIY repertoire for flexibility and cost savings. I frequently use my sewing machine to patch torn knees and butts in our work pants.
The most important rule with outdoor sewing projects is to use materials made for outdoor applications. Indoor fabrics will shred very quickly due to direct sun exposure. I used Sunbrella fabric and was very impressed by the quality and weight. It also has a 5 year warranty. I might make a grill cover, outdoor curtains, and a garden bag with it one day. The only downside is that Sunbrella is a woven acrylic, so it unravels very easily and needs to be handled minimally once it’s cut (or you can use a hot knife to cut it, but I don’t have one). I also used foam and pillow inserts designed to be used outside. Since we don’t have a cover for our sofa, we want it to dry quickly after it gets wet. I used silk film inside the cushions, which helps keep the foam from absorbing water.
When designing with fabrics, I consider texture, pattern, and contrast. I chose four different Sunbrella fabrics that are complementary neutrals with plenty of texture and pattern. The cushions are a solid charcoal gray. We have three different pillow patterns: solid cream, gray dot, and tan ticking stripe. Even though the charcoal gray and the cream fabrics are both solids, the cream fabric has a much heavier texture than the charcoal gray, which adds interest.
I was very impressed with the range that Sunbrella offers (but it made it difficult to choose). All of the fabrics seem like they will be very easy to clean, and all of the covers have zippers that make them completely removable if I need to machine wash them. We chose gray for the seats since they may see the most dirt. Lastly, we added a black and white herringbone outdoor polypropylene rug from Annie Selke to complete the space. Choosing the appropriate rug size (not too small) can tie together a space and make an outdoor room without four walls feel defined.
I used the following materials to sew six 23.5” cushions, three 24” pillows, and three 12”x18” pillows. I also added ties to all of the cushions and pillows so they can be tied down to the wooden frame. We get crazy winds and I don’t want my hard work to blow away.
Materials from sailrite.com:
5 yards Sunbrella cast charcoal upholstery fabric
1 yard Sunbrella linen canvas upholstery fabric
10 yards cushion wrap silk film
V-69 polyester UV thread, 4 oz
24 ft of YKK continuous zipper chain #5 (coil chain)
12 YKK zipper slider #5 non-locking pull tab (coil chain)
3”x48”x80” medium density polyurethane antimicrobial foam
6 24” indoor/outdoor pillow inserts
6 12”x18” indoor/outdoor pillow inserts
Clear acrylic ruler 6”x24”
Other fabrics from outdoorfabriccentral.com:
1 yard Sunbrella lure pebble upholstery fabric
1 yard Sunbrella ticking dove upholstery fabric
Flat surface to cut on – I use a cardboard mat
The fabrics and inserts cost $477 with shipping. I used the cushion builder on outdoorfabriccentral.com to calculate how much it would cost to buy the same number of custom cushions and pillows pre-made. It was almost $1200! Doing the sewing myself saved me almost $700. It took me only a few weekends of work. Thanks Mom!!!
I don’t need to tell you how to make these, because Sailrite already has amazing free tutorials that show exactly how. They even have a calculator to calculate your pattern measurements and yardage. I’m a huge fan!
Cushion video: https://www.sailrite.com/30-minute-box-corner-cushion
I saved a few bucks by using pins instead of double-sided tape, but it was no longer a 30-minute cushion.
For the pillow, I combined the method in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDwivVg1DNU with the formula in this article: https://www.sailrite.com/How-to-Taper-Pillow-Corners to avoid “dog-eared” corners.